It Could Happen To Anybody: Raising Awareness on Human Trafficking

It would have been an uncomfortable topic to present in a training symposium. It was a challenging task to get an audience to engage. It was an important core issue, though an age-old one. But Sherry Saehlenou not only made the presentation with class, she not only got the audience engaged in style, she also achieved her greater purpose: to create awareness about the need for an industry to do something more.
The event was the World Aviation Training Symposium (WATS 2016) in Orlando this April (2016), and I was as attentive as anybody else since it was the one training need for the aviation industry that’s been waiting to happen. After all, as her presentation highlighted: Traffickers use commercial Air Transport as one of the common means of transporting victims.
Sherry is, of course, a respected Aviation professional and those who know her (and her career) would hardly be surprised that she’s now pioneering Training and Awareness programs regarding Human Trafficking. Recently retired from Boeing, Sherry is the Principal of the aviation training consulting firm, CA Training Solutions. In a career spanning 37 years, Sherry has flown as international flight attendant with Pan American and United Airlines. Post 9/11, Sherry was a major contributor to the implementation of cabin-defence security training programs for flight attendants and critical incident training for United Airlines. So she knows the possible interaction points that cabin crew have and steps that they can take to get involved in improving the situation.

But for Sherry, it goes beyond procedures and awareness. Her intention is to build a long-term sustainable movement to get more people involved eventually, but she hopes to have the airline industry engaged, with cabin crew as a first step. And she has the credentials and experience to make it work. A member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research (SIETAR), Sherry holds a certificate in Training and Development as well as a Masters degree in Education from the University of Washington. And as Cabin Safety Trainer and Program Developer with The Boeing Company, she designed and delivered training programs in CRM, cultural differences and security, as well as providing cabin safety “airplane differences” training for customers around the globe and serving on the Boeing Diversity Council. An integral part of the Advisory Panel of Hong Kong-based Aviation Learning Group, Peak Pacific Limited, she has also served on the ICAO committee to revise the Cabin Crew Safety Training Manual; and now, she has been appointed to represent the flight attendant population on the ICAO outreach committee, NGAP (Next Generation of Aviation Professionals), working to harmonise global efforts to attract the qualified and competent aviation professionals needed to operate, manage and maintain the future global air transport system.

How serious is the Human Trafficking problem that it requires awareness and training programmes? The following graphics from the 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) should provide a snapshot of the scale of the problem:


According to official research available from UNODC and UNICEF (UNICEF estimates 1.2 million children are trafficked every year), trafficking is happening everywhere in the world. According to Sherry’s research, it is the second largest criminal industry in the world. And as she says: it could happen to anybody since traffickers use entrapment as often as forced methods to trap victims.

Sherry has spent the last year researching and gathering first-hand information from various sources including victims of trafficking. For now, she’s diligently using her vast experience and research to build a curriculum and possible training programmes.


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